Are you ready for Christmas?

Social Enterprises that make a difference this Christmas.
Merry Christmas

Christmas is coming and the best way to celebrate on our blog is to give a big shout out to the wonderful social entrepreneurs and innovators we have met on our journey so far. We have collected gift ideas, events & initiatives and pieces of inspiration.


  • Gift ideas with an impact


GOOD Travel membership
For someone who is passionate about travelling, what better gift than joining a community of like-minded people, all committed to having a 2018 full of sustainable and responsible tourism?

Business Activist Entrepreneur Membership
For mission-driven entrepreneurs who want to know how to make money, provoke social change and have fun, this is the best offer available online:
We attended their bootcamp in August, so we know what we are talking about!

Sheedo plantable item selection
Cotton-made paper cards, seeds, mini gardening kits… and 10% of Christmas sales will be used to plant trees: 

Advent Calendar by 24GoodDeeds
It might be a little late for this one but... who says that good deeds are only for the Christmas season? Check this out what Berlin Impact Hubbers have been doing, get inspired and take action:


mushroom funny hat

If you are in Russia, Shapka Rulit [Creative Hats] is what you are looking for. Handmade by children and old people, fun and very warm: 

If you are in Shanghai or wider China, Feyi collected the best ideas, ranging from the kit to be a perfect zero waster, upcycled bags, reusable paper gifts, homemade soaps or natural and vegan wine : 

If you are in the UK, the School for Social Entrepreneurs published an inspiring Christmas Shopping guide that is all about being sustainable with creativity at Christmas: 


  • Initiatives & events with an impact


Reverse calendar by Rubies in the Rubble 
Connecting food surplus with the people who need it most. They have been collecting one item each day since 1st December and adding it to the calendar. On Christmas Eve they will be donating it to their nearest food bank. 

Reverse Advent Calendar

24th December in Shanghai… time to celebrate!
Merry Christmas by Green Initiatives & partners.

Cat for Merry Xmas


24th December in Moscow… time to go green!
Day for separate waste collection by Delai Kulturu

Not Christmas-related but a wintery initiative which is simply beautiful:
Stenograffia run a project to make street art available and enjoyable for visually impaired people. A graffiti gallery made with Braille.
Pictures here and a video report here.

So… what are you doing for Christmas? Let us know in the boxes below!

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Fifty-five days, five countries and five alphabets

Il mondo è bello perché è vario ~ The world is beautiful because it is varied!
ABC on a street sign

When we planned our trip, it was clear in our minds that we wanted to immerse ourselves in something different and wanted plunge into diversity. And we definitely succeeded!

Something different
We developed our itinerary choosing countries, and in fact a whole part of the world, that neither of us had visited before. Countries with a completely different history and culture from Italy’s and Europe’s. So different, indeed, that not only the languages there (here!) are different but the alphabets too! 
For people, like us, who are used to travel in Europe and in continents, like the Americas or Africa, where the writing culture has been introduced or formalised or taken on by Europeans, travelling across Asia is a completely different experience. Luckily, there is a translation function in WeChat and we had Google translator app to assist us :-)


We travelled to Berlin, Germany; then Warsaw, Poland; then all the way across Russia from Moscow to Ulan Ude; then we moved south across Mongolia; and we continued across China, designing a circle (an “O”?!). Little by little, we got further and further away from our references. But the great thing was that all changed around us gradually. Including our references.

The transition from the Latin alphabet, used in Germany and Poland, to the Cyrillic alphabet, used in Russia,  is smooth - in both cases, there is one sign per sound and it is somehow easy to pick this up! 

Sign in Russian - irony about French style

In Mongolia, the Cyrillic alphabet, which was only introduced in 1944, cohabits with the traditional Mongolian alphabet. This is written in a top-down fashion with shapes that somehow reminded us of the Arabic writing. One of the highlights of our stay in Mongolia was the lesson we took from a ten-year-old school student on how to write that alphabet.

Monument in Ulan Bataar with Mongolian writing underneath


In China, everything changed. The writing is made of syllables, and syllables have a full meaning on their own. And each of the written sign is quite complex in itself. Once, we took one of our traditional photos with human bodies in sequence in the shape of (soon to be published in our Instagram, where you can find other ones!). We then suggested we would take a photo mimicking the Chinese name of the village… and our hosts said we should call up all of the villagers to make it right. The five of us were not enough people!

Chinese calligraphy

On ancient buildings, like those in the Forbidden City or Summer Palace in Beijing, we could still find Mongolian signs and decorative writing. We somehow felt at home!

When we got to Xiahé, Gansu province, we felt amazed by the transition from the Han village (where everything was in Chinese), to the Muslim village (where halal was rigorously written in Arabic!), to the Tibetan village. We only spent a couple of days there. Not enough time to learn much about Tibetan writing, but totally enough to admire the beauty and elegance of it. Written from left to right, letters are aligned on the top.

Buddhist flags with Tibetan writing


It has been a beautiful journey through differences and diversity so far. And it has been very rewarding to use these differences and diversity to start a dialogue with the inspiring people we met!

Any thoughts on writing, letters, alphabets, differences and dialogue? Just use the space below. We'd love to hear from you!

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Our Russian Experience in a Snapshot

19 days, 112 hours on trains, 6 stops across Russia in 7 questions :)
Experience Assessment on Russian flag

When travelling, it's good to observe, read, experience, absorb. As it's also good to stop and think back. It's not easy to put the first third of our trip in writing. But we liked the idea of making an assessment of our time in Russia. We used the same the criteria we had used to assess the 21-day’s Bootcamp we attended in August. Keep reading to see the result!

Light bulb - what we have learnt
Ale: ‘Moscow is not Russia and Russia is not Moscow’. I had heard a similar statement about London and England, Paris and France… But I didn't expect to hear the same here. Mainly, I didn't expect to hear this from every single person we met in every single location out of Moscow!
Fra: гречневой (buckwheat) is really good and самовар (the train huge kettle always on) is a great invention!

Heart - what we have loved
Ale: lovely wooden tiny houses (not on wheels like the ones we talked about here!!) in the Lake Baikal region. Actually, the whole Baikal region!
Fra: the Wooden Architecture and Ethnographic museum in Taltsy, also in Baikal region. It was fascinating to see aerial burying structures, to travel in space and time from nomadic campsites to impressive fortresses.

Smile - what made us laugh
Ale: our attempts at speaking Russian, like when Fra called for остановка, пожалуйста (next stop, please) on the minibuses :-)
Fra: train life episodes. Once, I got off the train at a station as we often do and… the train went off with my wife and on it! (The train came back 20 minutes after, so all was good apart from Ale’s level of anxiety!).

Red square.Pointing finger - what we take away
Ale: a feeling of gratitude. We felt welcomed all the time, all journey on. Since the moment when the attendant on our first train found a seat for us despite us not having a reservation* to the little boy who greeted us in a canteen in Ulan Ude (our last stop), offered us some croutons and happily spent an hour talking to us with a keyboard and google translator! 
Fra: people’s smile and their openness to us. Also, their variety of points of view and opinions on Russian politics and history. 
*our original Berlin-Moscow train got cancelled because of Storm Xavier so we had to find alternative ways to Moscow.

Shaking hands - what connections we have made
Ale: so many! Through Couchsurfing - Pavel & Kathya, Oksana, Alyona to mention a few. And through our research on social impact - Moscow Impact Hub, Delai Kulturu, Reforma, Flacoin, Dubroludov,, Stenograffia, Shapka Rulit, Great Baikal Trail...
Fra: and beside them, all the people who spontaneously came to us to help and give us directions in the street or in the middle of crazy Moscow metro stations. And young Alexander who walked us around in Sljudjanka / Слюдянка. And little Misha who was a generous philosopher 11 years old :-)

MoskowRooted foot - what we had known already and was important to remember
Ale: Russia is huge. Of course, I knew it. On the atlas, maps, etc. Russia has always seemed huge to me. But now I have experienced its vastity. In the number of hours we spent on the train, in the number of time zones we crossed, in the endless landscapes we contemplated from the train, in the variety of cultures, architectures, stories. Even ‘small cities’ are huge in Russia. 
Fra: the atmosphere and the interior design of trains reminded me of what I had read in the Brothers Karamasov. A sense of age and weight. The conversations with the people reminded me of the Eurasian nature of this country. Their being in-between continents. Their being in transition. Their simultaneous attraction for the Western lifestyle and the Eastern hyper-technology.

Bin - what we’d kick away (didn’t like that much…) 
Ale: too much worrying about what will happen and who we should meet next. Good planning is good but… trusting the road and where it will take us is better!
Fra: urban outskirts when they become "human outskirts"…

Does anything resonate with you? Whether you have travelled to Russia or to somewhere else, whether you had similar or completely different experiences, feel free to use the comment box below or email us :)



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Reading about Russia…

Image credit: (

Like Tolstoj, I haven’t finished reading ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ [Бра́тья Карама́зовы] novel by the Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky. 
I started it, liked it a lot but then I got side-tracked by our wedding prep. I read it until the naughty father is killed. Then, I got married.

Our wedding day was a great one. We had planned it pretty well. Not everything went as we had planned, though. Some things were different. Some others went even better. Overall, it was a success… at the very least, because we enjoyed it so much!

Now, we are planning again. For a new adventure (our social (ad)venture!), quite complex too because it’s a project and it’s a trip, right?

Are we ready to go? We are getting there and this is the most important thing. Planning is about learning to adapt to how things evolve around us. Isn’t it?

  • Logistics-wise, we are making progress. We are submitting visa applications. We are contacting people on Couchsurfing (thanks, Rike for accepting our request in Berlin!). We are looking into our equipment & gears - watch this space for a future blog on this!
  • Techie-wise, we are also making progress. Have you seen last week’s blog? Check it out for the picture of what you can do with Google Translate and a smartphone!

Then there are our readings. ‘Professional’ readings about Design Thinking, communication design, social impact, etc. All those readings that will help us in our project.
And narrative readings, like ‘The Brothers Karamazov’.

This classic novel is about faith. It is about a dramatic struggle between personal and collective faith. It is about the intimate and anthropological struggle between faith and reason, and how it translates in society. One can strongly feel a sense of holiness in this novel and still feel that holiness is accessible. There is something about the divine involvement in human matters, including the very worst ones.
And the struggle is not only spiritual. It is also a struggle for justice and a power struggle.

We don’t know who wins. We won’t know because this is the story of life. Human life, personal lives…

Are we going to understand a little bit more about us, about Russia, about our stories through our travelling?

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Our social (ad)venture is getting closer to begin :)

Google translate app.

It’s been an exciting week for us. We’ve got an itinerary, a ticket and a date.


For the first country that we will be visiting in our travels. Russia Россия !!

We will go to:

  • Moscow
    for its architecture and… because we love capital cities!
  • Kazan
    for its history and because we are fascinated by its all-faith centre.
  • Yekaterinburg
    for its proximity to the Urals, because simply we love mountains.
  • Krasnoyarsk
    for the Stolby Nature Reserve and… because we’ll need a break after 33 hours in the train ;)
  • Irkutsk and Ulan-Ude
    for the Lake Baikal because it’s the largest (by volume) and the oldest lake in the world. So impressive!


Our very first ticket for the trip. Berlin to Moscow. 25 hours, 4 countries, 2 train berths. Purchased from the Russian Railway website. Much cheaper than any other websites and travel agencies on the web. Highly recommended. Only hiccup: it’s in Russian. But that’s not a problem and can actually be quite fun… Google Translate is there to help (see picture).


7th October 2017 (yes, it’s only an ironic coincidence to happens to be Russian President’s birthday). Note it down to wish us safe travels!

Any recommendations on the places we’ll be stopping at? And on any social enterprise there? Share in the comment box below or write on email/Facebook.

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